Tuesday 4 June 2019

A Visual Window to an Ecclesiastical World - exhibition

The RCB Library’s exhibition showcasing a selection of the Church of Ireland’s historical architectural drawings – A Visual Window to an Ecclesiastical World – is now open to the public at the Irish Architectural Archive, 45 Merrion Square, Dublin. Open days are Tuesday to Friday, 10am to 5pm, until Friday 20 August, and admission is free. A series of lectures is planned for Heritage Week (17-25 August).

Earl's Gift Map before conservation. Click for enlarged view.
A Visual Window to an Ecclesiastical World showcases a selection of the original drawings. They are arranged chronologically and thematically, guiding viewers through a representative selection of the overall collection and literally open a window to the past, telling the story of who designed these buildings – why and when they were built (or rebuilt).

There is an excellent representation of virtually every diocese of the Church and of churches and glebe houses throughout Ireland, north and south.

One of the items on display is the recently repaired and conserved early 19th-century map of the ‘Earl’s Gift’ Demesne showing lands near the town of Donemana, Co. Tyrone, in the parish of Donagheady and diocese of Derry. These lands were colourfully surveyed for the Revd Charles Douglas by Robert Craig in 1830.

The Hon Revd Charles Douglas (1791-1867) was the second son of the 14th Earl of Morton. Ordained in the Church of England, he came to Ireland as rector of Donagheady in 1825 and continued to serve there until retirement in 1857. Clearly of significant independent means, Douglas was able to commission this survey map of the lands where he had laid out a house and planned demesne on the former ‘Earls Gift Castle’ estate, which had been associated in the 17th century with Sir John Drummond who laid out the original ‘Earls Gift Castle’ and town of Donemana. But for this survey map which provides visual evidence of the castle, associated farmyard parish church, church lands and outlying areas, the association of over 95 acres of these lands with one Church of Ireland cleric might have remained unknown.

Earl's Gift Map after conservation. Click for enlarged view
The map was recently transferred to the Library’s custody from the diocesan registry in Derry and Raphoe in the context of a large consignment of diocesan papers. It had suffered the ravages of time, and was in need of urgent repair.

Thanks to the expert intervention of Liz D’Arcy, at the Paperworks Studio for Paper Conservation, and availability of the Library’s Conservation Fund which allows for urgent repair of specific items, this beautiful work of art by surveyor Robert Craig has been brought back to life.

All of the original drawings are safely housed in the Library, but to reduce their wear and tear and showcase them to a wider audience, the entire collection of nearly 9,000 individual items was systematically digitized and catalogued in the Library, and is freely available to view online here.